The FBI in 2006 saw danger of white supremacist “infiltration” of American policing, including law enforcement officers who leaked information to groups with which they sympathized, according to a formerly secret document a Democratic congressman released Tuesday.
The 2006 assessment also warned that white supremacist “infiltration” of policing could result in a “passive tolerance of racism.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Democrat who released the 2006 assessment, said given the current conversation on racial justice and policing, the FBI was prescient in what it spotted 14 years ago.
“The infiltration of certain law enforcement departments by racist ideas, attitudes, and personnel is a clear and present danger to the vast majority of law-abiding officers, to minority communities and citizens, and to the general public,” Mr. Raskin said.
A heavily redacted version of the memo was published by The Intercept in 2017, hinting at the FBI’s awareness of links between white supremacists and law enforcement. The full memo details the exact scenarios the FBI worried about, including police tipping off fringe groups when they were under investigation, or giving them access to areas the public wouldn’t normally have, increasing risks of sabotage.
It’s not clear how much of the 2006 assessment is still the view of the FBI.
Bureau officials declined to appear to testify to a House committee on Tuesday.
But Bureau Director Christopher A. Wray told Congress this month that white supremacists are the largest threat within the pool of self-radicalized domestic terrorists, and Homeland Security Department officials said over the last few years they have been the most lethal.
The 2006 FBI assessment said it’s not clear how much actual infiltration had occurred by white supremacists into police departments, saying there was “little corroborated reporting” on attempts.
“The apparent sporadic reporting on white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement could be an indication of successful infiltration that has gone undetected, unreported incidents, or — despite apparent intentions to the contrary — a lack of systematic effort on the part of white supremacist groups to recruit from law enforcement communities,” the FBI said in the memo.
It said that last possibility was the more likely, but said the risks of infiltration going undetected were “of great concern.”
Mr. Raskin said the Trump administration is downplaying the threat.
“If local or state law enforcement were being infiltrated by ISIS or any other terrorist group we would consider it an immediate public safety emergency,” he said. “Infiltration by violent white supremacy is no less of a threat.”
Rep. Chip Roy, Texas Republican, said Democrats were trying to “perpetrate a narrative that American law enforcement is either systematically racist or composed of white supremacists.”
“I just categorically reject that characterization,” Mr. Roy said.
He said the narrative itself can also be dangerous, tarring police and fueling calls to cut budgets, which he said results in less robust responses to calls, and increases in crime.
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